In late 2012, director Wes Anderson had a specific image in his mind for the character of Zero Moustafa, a young lobby boy of some fictional and fantastical concoction of Middle Eastern descent. Given that, it's entirely unsurprising that Tony Revolori and his older brother Mario were both finalists for The Grand Budapest Hotel's starring role.
"It was very tough," says Revolori, who was 16 at the time. "We had to read the script on-site, so we didn't have a chance to prepare in any way. We just did the best we could."
After one more call-back interview, for which Revolori took an eccentric daytrip to Paris solely for dinner with Anderson, he was offered and accepted the part.
Today, Revolori is living the life of a star, scheduled to appear on NBC's Today on Wednesday, March 26, before flying to Jacksonville for an appearance at Sun-Ray Cinema. Back then, however, the young actor was preparing to lead the usual, star-studded suspects of Anderson's films, including Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and Ralph Fiennes, among others. He was intimidated, he admits, but the pressure drove him to work harder. And soon he realized that he was a natural fit for the character.
"[The connection] was fairly immediate," says Revolori, who grew up in Anaheim, Calif., and comes from a Guatemalan family. "Zero really speaks to me. He is this innocent and inexperienced character. I was inexperienced to the grand stage of acting. It was wonderful to share that in common."
His co-stars have told the media that Revolori knew the entire script from the first day on set. "I have a photographic memory," Revolori says, "so I'm always able to remember quite a bit more than the rest of the cast. I learned the script inside out and studied the storyboard animations going in. I had memorized exactly every detail and tried to
be as professional as I possibly could."
This attention to detail made him a great partner for Anderson, who has a reputation for being very particular, sometimes to the point of obsession, about every nuance of a scene, down to an inflection of speech or a miniature set piece in the corner of the room. Revolori was somewhat familiar with Anderson's films and style — about as familiar as the average filmgoer. "He thinks of every little detail in this world," Revolori says. "He knows what he wants. Which is good, because then the cast has a good idea of what he wants, and we can work together to make that happen. He'll take 42 takes, if need be, to get that right take."
For now, Revolori is happy to be back in sunny California, a sharp contrast from the bleak, but charming, atmosphere of Gorlitz, Germany, where the movie was shot.
"The hardest part was the first day I had to run through snow," he says, recalling a scene where his and Ralph Fiennes' characters are being chased by authorities on sled. "I fell like 30 times. That day was a doozy of a day."